Fight for the Lost

By LuxDragon

Scifi / Action

The Assassin

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Eternity Bar

"I see."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drop your name. It sounds like someone is going through a lot of trouble to talk to you."

"This complicates things. I may have to strike sooner than planned. Perhaps even tonight."

"That's a little rash, don't you think? She just fortified her tower with more Eclipse."

"Numbers don't concern me. Stealth is my greatest asset. I have already been identified by the news reports. I cannot afford to be seen further until the job is done. Especially with the appearance of a justicar in Nos Astra."

"If you're sure…"

"I am."

"Alright. I have to go to work. If anyone else asks me about you…"

"Tell them where I'm going. It matters not."

"Really?"

"One way or another, tonight, I will complete my task. What happens after is of little consequence."

After the sins I have committed, I deserve no less. Merciful Kalihira, take me into your embrace and grant me peace.

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Azure Spire Hotel

"The Shepard Scholarship has gone into effect, targeting low-income children on Earth, where the most famous human in the galaxy allegedly had a difficult childhood."

In the bathroom, Shepard paused as he heard the news report playing in the main room.

"The scholarships have allowed several dozen young men and women to leave gangs and join the military or enroll in school."

Wow. That's…

Feeling incredibly flattered and letting himself bask in a moment of pride, he picked up his razor and continued shaving.

"In similar news, the Shepard Memorial Plaza on Elysium was voted this year's hottest wedding location. Under Admiral Hackett's orders, money raised from wedding fees goes to funds for Alliance veterans."

Allowing another swell of pride, Shepard finished up in the bathroom. He stepped back into the main room and put on a set of civilian clothes as he got ready for his day. Just as he finished, his com unit started beeping. "Shepard here."

"Shepard. It's Liara. I have information on Thane. Is it safe to talk right now?"

Shepard turned up the volume on the holo-monitor. "Yeah. I did a sweep last night before I went to bed. It's should be safe."

"The Destiny Ascension has completed its 20 colony victory cruise. Council members aboard thanked human Alliance soldiers for their efforts in repelling Saren's invasion two years ago."

"Very well. Is it too early for irony?" she rhetorically asked. She continued without waiting for any remarks Shepard could've made. "Thane is after Nassana. He has been in contact with a woman named Seryna for some time now. According to my sources, she was in charge of Nassana's security before she was dismissed. Embarrassingly, I might add."

"Bitter about that, I'm sure," Shepard commented thoughtfully. "It also means that she knows all the weakness and points of entry. Stupid move on Nassana's part."

"Seryna has an office in the cargo transfer levels. If you would like to talk to her…?"

"I'll talk to her. Thanks for the tip. I'll head there now."

"Very well, Shepard." She hesitated for a moment. "Be careful," she whispered before cutting the link. It was so quiet, that Shepard barely heard her.

Switching off the holo-monitor, he called his XO. "Miranda? Do you copy?"

"Miranda here. Go ahead."

"Where are you?"

"Still in my room. I was about to head out."

"Stay there. I'm coming," Shepard said before closing the link. Collecting his pistol and holstering it, he left his suite and swiftly made his way to Miranda's room next door and knocked.

She opened the door immediately after two knocks and raised an eyebrow. "Something up?"

Shepard made a show of looking around her room.

"It's safe enough," she assured. "What's up?"

"Liara's got information on Thane. I'm heading to meet Thane's contact to see if we can't find him," Shepard quietly explained. "You coming?"

Miranda nodded understandingly. "Of course. Let me get my pistol."

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Cargo Transfer Levels

"She's supposed to be here?" Miranda asked.

"According to Liara," Shepard answered. He and Miranda continued to walk along the busy transit room, keeping their eyes open for their only lead on Thane. "Excuse me!" he called out to a passing asari in a transit uniform.

"Yes?" she asked courteously. "How may I help you?"

"We're looking for Seryna. Can tell us where to find her?" Miranda requested.

"She works with me," the asari replied. "This way."

Following the asari, they approached an office near the loading bays. It was small, but still had space enough for two to work comfortably. "Seryna. Some humans wanted to talk to you."

"What do you want?" Seryna asked without looking up from her terminal.

"I understand that you might have information about Nassana Dantius and that you gave that information to someone else," Shepard enigmatically said. "I'm looking for him."

Seryna's head snapped up at the name. Recovering quickly, she turned to her co-worker. "Tana. Cover for me, will you?" Without waiting for an answer, she stood up and led Shepard and Miranda to a more secluded location. "Over here." Stopping at one of the far loading docks, she turned around and regarded the humans. "Yeah, I know who Thane Krios is. I might have passed him some information but I didn't hire him. What do you want to know?"

"We're looking for him. We just want to talk, that's all," Miranda assured.

The asari just shrugged. "I can tell you, but you won't stop him. When he contacted me, I checked up on him. The man never gives up on a job."

"Just the kind of guy I'm looking for then," Shepard remarked casually.

"What for?"

"A mission," he said shortly. "I understand the target is Nassana Dantius. I also know that you ran security for her. Then got fired."

Seryna scowled. "I found out she was having people killed to cover up her dirty secrets."

"That part we knew," Miranda said.

"She fired me when I confronted her about it." Seryna had a humorless smile on her face. "Her loss. I might have been good enough to stop Thane from taking her down."

"Instead, you gave Thane everything he needed to infiltrate and kill her," Miranda pointed out.

Seryna shrugged uncaringly. "What can I say? I'm bitchy about backstabbing murderers who fire people for having a conscience." She snorted in contempt. "Besides, I'm not stupid. I'm betting she probably put a hit out on me since I know the security layout inside and out. Not to mention the fact that I know she kills people to cover up her crimes."

"You mind telling us what Thane's opposition will be?" Shepard asked.

"Eclipse mercs. High-tech killers…" she started to say before she was interrupted by dual groans of irritation. She raised an eyebrow at their response. "But I'm guessing you already knew that…"

"Let's say we had a run-in with them recently and leave it at that," Miranda explained in annoyance.

"Well, seeing as you're both still alive, I guess they weren't that much trouble for you," Seryna observed.

"And Thane?" Shepard pressed.

"He has quite a reception waiting for him. I told him all I knew. He didn't seem worried." Despite her tone, Seryna's brow furrowed, indicating she was worried for Thane all the same.

"So where do I find Thane? Or Nassana for that matter?" Shepard asked.

"I don't know where Thane hides out when he's not scouting or studying his target, but as to where Nassana hides…" Seryna turned around to face the city and grandly gestured to a pair of twin towers in the distance. "The Dantius Towers. Penthouse level of Tower One."

"It looks like only one tower is erect though. That second tower appears to be under construction," Miranda noted.

"It is," Seryna said with a nod. "If Thane's smart, he'll go in from there. More places to hide, less security, and it connects to Tower One near the top."

"Good for Thane, but what about us?" Shepard asked. "I doubt knocking will get us anywhere."

Seryna smiled. "Forgot to make an appointment?"

"Let's just say Nassana and I have a history. I really doubt she'll want to reminisce about it, not if she keeps her habit of killing off people who knows her secrets," Shepard vaguely said.

"Well, now you piqued my curiosity, human," Seryna said with a grin.

"Can you get us in the tower or not?" Miranda asked impatiently.

Seryna tilted her head at Miranda's tone. She studied Miranda for a moment before glancing at Shepard.

Shepard himself had no idea what was going on between the two women. Before he could ask though, Seryna appeared to have seen something because she nodded in understanding and crossed her arms. "I can get you in, but you'll only have one shot. You'd better be ready."

"You're just offering your help? No strings attached?" Miranda suspiciously asked.

Seryna just shrugged. "If you're looking for Thane, you have to reach Nassana first. The Eclipse are going to try and stop you. At the least, you'll distract her guards. Take a little fire, give Thane a clear shot."

"How nice for Thane," Miranda couldn't help but comment. "No love lost for your former employer, I see."

"I didn't hire him to kill Nassana, but I won't shed any tears when she gets what's coming to her," Seryna defended.

Miranda held her hands up in a gesture of peace. "My apologies. I simply meant that Nassana Dantius probably deserves what's coming to her as well."

"And then some," Seryna said with an empathetic nod.

"Is there anything else you know about Thane?" Shepard asked.

Seryna shook her head. "Not much. He did say that he's not doing the hit for money. Nobody hired him."

Both Shepard and Miranda looked surprised at this.

"I know. I thought it was weird too. I wanted to know who I was helping and he said he's doing this job on his own. That he had to restore the balance of his life." She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he's crazy. If he or you take down Nassana, I don't care why."

"Alright," Shepard said. "When can you take us?"

"He's going in tonight. If you want to meet him, we have to go as well, as soon as the shift workers clear out of Tower Two. Just the three of us?"

"Actually, I'm bringing my squad in. There are eight of us. We'll have to take separate cars."

"Eight?" Seryna asked incredulously. "You really need a small army for this?"

"Let's just say I'm going with my instincts on this one," Shepard replied. "As far as my recruitment methods go: Everything that can go wrong, does."

Miranda smiled. "I can vouch for that."

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Normandy SR-2

"Finally. Something to kill," Grunt said excitedly. He pounded his fists together in anticipation. "It's about damn time."

"So when are we doing this?" Jack asked impatiently.

Shepard leaned on the table. He looked over his various squad mates assembled inside the Comm. Room appearing thoughtful. Jack's question shook him out of his reverie. "Tonight. Seryna will arrange transport for us to approach the towers without them shooting us down immediately."

"Is something wrong, Shepard?" Miranda asked.

"No. I was deciding who I need to leave behind."

"Leave behind?" Jacob repeated.

"Thanks for volunteering, Jacob," Shepard said. "You stay here and continue the work on the Normandy. The rest of us will head out."

"Why me?" Jacob complained.

"Because you volunteered," Garrus chided in mocking tone. "Didn't you hear him say that?"

"Very funny," Jacob grumbled.

"Shepard's right. Considering that the ablative armor is supposed to protect the ship, it's not surprising that removing it is proving difficult," Miranda reasoned. "We need someone to continue coordinating the efforts to remove the old armor and install the new one. Not to mention managing the safe installation of the new cannon."

"Lucky me," Jacob sarcastically said.

"Alright, settle down," Shepard ordered. "EDI, bring up the schematics of the Dantius Towers."

The image of the Normandy changed to wire diagrams of the towers they were going to infiltrate/attack later tonight.

Shepard started his briefing. "Right, the second tower is still under construction. Seryna is dropping us in at a shift change. The good news, we might get in undetected in the crowd. The bad news is, if we're detected or Thane is, there's going to be a lot of civilians around and the Eclipse don't care who they shoot." The image of the top of the two towers zoomed in, showing a bridge connecting them. "Nassana, and by extension, Thane, is at the top floor. The penthouse at Tower One. From Tower Two, we take either the service elevator or the cargo elevator as high as we can go. We reach the bridge, cross it, and climb the rest of the way up on Tower One to the penthouse."

"What's the ROE?" Miranda asked.

"Mercs are considered hostiles until I say otherwise. Nassana is considered a noncombatant until she engages us," Shepard answered definitively. "Civilians are off-limits. That applies to you too, Jack."

"Bor-ing," Jack sang out.

"ROE?" Mordin asked in confusion.

"Rules of Engagement. Something every Alliance Marine has to know by heart since it tells us what we can and can't shoot. Particularly in civilian heavy areas." Jacob explained.

Mordin nodded. "I see. Set of rules designed to identify targets of opportunity. STG carries similar rules, though more flexible."

Jack smirked. "Let's hope that Nassana 'engages' us. I wouldn't mind being paid to kill her."

Grunt snorted. "I'd kill her for free. Anything to get out here and do something fun."

Tali shook her head and turned to Shepard. "This is the squad you're counting on to save your people?"

Shepard could only shrug helplessly.

Garrus cleared his throat and pulled the meeting back on track. "So we have to climb to the top of a tower that's still under construction, possibly shoot our way through the Eclipse while avoiding the civilians, go across the bridge that will probably have Eclipse mercs using it as a chokepoint, and climb up Tower One to confront Nassana and her guards when we're really looking for an assassin," he summed up in one breath.

Shepard crossed his arms and nodded. "That's about the gist of it, yeah."

"What about Nassana? If Thane engages her?" Garrus asked.

"Let him. I'm looking to recruit him for our squad. I doubt he'll be grateful if we stop him," Shepard responded neutrally. "It's cold, but she has it coming. Any other questions?"

"'Recruit' he says," Jack scoffed. "Can you recruit an assassin?"

"Recruited you," Mordin pointed out.

"You have to admit, all of this is a bit unorthodox," Tali commented. "Trying to find an assassin during his, um… work… and then, instead of stopping him, we're asking him to join us. I'm not even sure if 'recruitment' is the right word for this anymore."

Shepard was about to make a rebuttal when EDI's avatar popped up in front of him. "Captain, I should inform you of the hazards of the bridge," she warned.

"What's up?" Shepard asked. He noted that Tali was glaring at the avatar hatefully and filed that information for later.

"According to the architect's reports, the bridge connecting the Dantius Towers is complete. However, the walls have not been constructed yet and the wind speed at that height can reach up to 120 mph," EDI informed. "Mass effect fields are generated to protect the workers, but there is a high probability that the Eclipse will deactivate those particular safety measures."

"Which means if we get hit by biotics or explosions up there…" Miranda said.

"We get to take a quick and free flying lesson," Garrus finished. "Nice. At least they'll be just as vulnerable."

Grunt nodded in agreement. "A few concussive rounds will make it pretty exciting."

"Is there anything else we should know?" Tali asked.

"That's all," Shepard replied. "Return here tonight and arm up. Dismissed."

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Near the Dantius Towers

Thane continued his vigil of Tower Two from his perch. Occasionally, he would look through the scope of his M-92 Mantis Sniper Rifle and carefully observe the coming and goings of the salarian workers, the Eclipse mercs, and the various businessmen and women that would enter and leave either tower. Other times, he would quietly meditate, carefully crafting his focus as he prepared to release his body to do what his body knew best. For the few sparse moments in between, he would eat or indulge in his solipsism and relive more pleasant memories.

When night began to fall, however, he collapsed his rifle and double checked both of his M-3 Predators. Satisfied that he was ready, he clasped his hands in prayer and bowed his head.

Amonkira, lord of hunters. Grant me the strength to strike at my prey with precision and haste. Let my actions represent your fearsome power.

Arashu, goddess of motherhood and protection. Grant me your blessing for I will walk among the innocent. I beg that they will not be harmed by my deeds.

Kalihira, goddess of oceans and the afterlife. Should tonight be the night that my soul embraces the deep, forgive me of my sins.

Allowing himself a moment more to settle his soul, he released his body allowed it to conduct the mission. Already, he could feel himself slip into his battle sleep. His focus dulled as his clarity sharpened. He remembered everything he'd observed, studied, and prepared for. His body methodically prepared itself for tonight. His and Nassana's.

May we both be granted forgiveness for our sins…

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Normandy SR-2

"Captain? Garrus? May I have a moment?"

Both men looked up from their work to see Chakwas standing nearby, waving her hand at them. "Sure, Doc," Shepard said.

"This way," she directed. Turning around, she started heading for the airlock and back into the Normandy.

Putting down their tools and curiously following, they entered the Normandy and got on the lift with Chakwas. She smiled reassuringly at them and pressed the button for Deck 3.

"What's going on?" Garrus asked.

"I have something of a gift for both of you," Chakwas replied. The moment elevator stopped at the Crew Deck and the doors opened, she stepped out. "Follow me."

Their curiosity growing by the minute, they dutifully followed the good doctor into the Med Bay.

Once inside, she walked over to a complex-looking machine situated in the corner of the room. "Here you are," she flourished.

Garrus and Shepard tilted their heads in confusion. Shepard cleared his throat and openly pointed at the machine. "That's… um… nice, Doc. What is it?"

"It's the Dermal Regeneration Unit I emailed you about, Captain," she replied. "This will heal your scars. Both of you."

"Ooohhhh…" both men intoned as they looked at the machine in a new light.

"How does it work?" Garrus asked.

"Lie down at the bed here," Chakwas instructed. "I'll take care of the rest. For you, Shepard, it should take about five to ten minutes or so." She walked up to Shepard and peered at his face. "It seems like you've been able to master your emotions quite well. I can barely see the scars." She turned to Garrus. "For you, Mr. Vakarian, I imagine it will take a half hour or so to finish."

Shepard glanced at time and saw they could afford a little vanity. "Okay. Garrus, you first. I got to get suited up anyway. Meet me in the armory when you're done and I'll have a crack at it."

"Alright," Garrus said. He eyed the machine and shot Chakwas a questioning look.

"I oversaw the installation myself, Mr. Vakarian. It'll be fine. Now sit down and let me remove your bandages…"

Shepard left the Med Bay, leaving his turian friend in Chakwas' capable hands. Moving quickly, he traveled to the Armory and retrieved his armor case inside his locker that he stored earlier in the day. He was just about to suit up when Miranda entered the Armory, already in full armor, but with her helmet clipped to her belt.

"Captain," she greeted.

"Hey," Shepard said. He unlocked the case and pulled out the Aegis Vest. He fingered one of the pockmarks and burns that marred the surface of the armor, remembering the damage he'd received against Enyala's personal guard. He considered going up to his cabin and retrieving a different set of armor when Miranda cleared her throat.

"I got you something," she suddenly said.

Looking up in surprise, Shepard saw her presenting an armor case to him. "Really?"

"It's a gift. For what you've done for me," she replied.

"You didn't have to do that."

"Of course I don't have to do it. Which means that I wanted to do it," she reasoned teasingly. "Here."

Accepting the gift as graciously as he could, Shepard placed the case on the table and cracked it open. Inside was a set of advanced looking armor he'd never seen before. "Wow."

"It's called the Kestrel Armor. I had it made specifically for you."

"How did you get this made?" Shepard asked. He picked up the chest plate and held it up to examine it.

"Truthfully, parts of it can be found just about anywhere in Nos Astra. Others, you have to order for. The rest… well, finding the right parts was something of a problem as well. Putting them all together into one functioning unit was the challenge, though. I called several of my contacts here to find and make the armor for you and put a rush job on it. It was made inside of 20 hours," she explained. "I was surprised myself."

"Wow," Shepard repeated. He picked up the leg greaves and tried them on.

While he was suiting up, Miranda continued to point out the new functions of the armor. "The shields on this armor are pretty much the best you can get anywhere. Much more than anything you can get commercially or within the Alliance and Cerberus. Top of the line tech was built into each piece. The separate components of the armor each carry their own shield generators or capacitors, while artificial muscle fibers enhance physical strength within the gauntlets, greaves, and pauldrons. Auto targeting software and stabilization platforms built throughout will increase your accuracy with firearms."

Shepard was duly impressed with the new armor he was given. Slipping on the chest plate, he gave Miranda a grateful look. "All that for me?"

"I analyzed our fight with Harbinger, Shepard. We'll need all the advantages we can get. You, most of all, since it has an interest in you," Miranda stated matter-of-factly. "Your armor does have an interesting feature that I'm hoping we'll be able to use on everyone else on the team."

Slipping on his gauntlets, Shepard tilted head and silently urged her on.

"It's basically a redundant shield generator. Evidently, should your shields fail, this unit is supposed to kick in and provide an extra amount of protection. It's limited, but it could mean the difference between life and death," she explained. "It's just a matter of reverse engineering it. I was thinking of approaching Tali with this."

"You should. I'm sure she could help," he said. Finally putting on his pauldrons, Shepard started twisting his upper body to get a feel for the armor. "Nice," he commented. He rotated his arms and gave Miranda a pointed look. "Just my size too. Perfect fit."

Miranda rolled her eyes. "I think I was privy to that bit of information some time ago." She gave him a wicked smile. "Don't worry, Captain. I made sure all of the pieces fit perfectly."

Shepard blinked and suddenly felt self-conscious of himself as he stood there gaping at her while she gave a neutral look in return. Luckily, he was saved by Jacob and Tali's appearance into the Armory.

"Captain, Miranda," Jacob greeted.

"Jacob," Miranda returned, breaking her stare with Shepard and allowing him to silently breathe a sigh of relief.

"That's some impressive armor you have, Shepard," Tali observed.

"Thanks. I see you got your Colossus Armor on," Shepard said.

"Yes. Garrus was kind enough to locate a set for me," Tali replied. She twisted a little, trying to get the armor to stretch a bit. "It's still a bit stiff to move around in, but I'll manage."

"Tali? May I have a word with you?" Miranda asked.

While they were talking, Shepard picked up the helmet and stared at it. "Wow," he said for the third time.

"That's definitely different," Jacob commented from his terminal. "How the hell do you see out of that bucket?"

"I have no idea," Shepard admitted. He turned the helmet around in his hands, looking over every part. As far as he could see from the outside, there were no eyeholes for him to see through. It looked completely closed off, proving Jacob's comment about it being a bucket over his head.

"The helmet has micro-cameras built along the outside that feeds into an internal HUD. Instead of a transparent visor or restrictive eyeholes, a reinforced faceplate is used for further protection," Miranda suddenly said, briefly pausing her current conversation with Tali.

"Oh," Shepard simply said. He slipped the helmet on. It was dark and claustrophobic, but then the HUD inside activated and he saw the Armory around him as if he wasn't wearing a helmet at all. He looked around with only his eyes and noted that there was no peripheral loss of vision like most helmets. He whistled approvingly. "Very nice…"

"It works?" Jacob asked in disbelief.

"Yeah. It's not bad either. I can see in this thing more than the standard visor helmets."

"Huh," Jacob simply said. Getting back to work, he picked up Miranda's Pulse Rifle and handed to her, before he typed the information into his terminal. Soon, he was passing out everyone's weapons and logging the information as they trickled into the armory in full armor one by one.

Garrus was the last to walk in. Decked out in Colossus Armor again, he placed his helmet next to his weapons and picked up his armaments. As he was attaching them to his weapon's harness on his back, he noted that Shepard and Jacob were staring openly at him. "What?"

Shepard took off his helmet and stepped closer to examine him. "Huh. You look better."

Garrus' mouth shifted into a turian toothy grin while his mandibles twitched in amusement. "Sorry, Shepard. Looks like all the women will be ignoring you again."

Jacob barked out a laugh.

Shepard grinned back. "I'll manage somehow." He nodded at the healed area of the turian's face. "Your face paint doesn't match anymore. You really think you can land a date with mismatched face paint?"

The three soldiers broke out in laughter.

"Chakwas help you out?" Jacob asked when he recovered.

Garrus nodded. "Yeah. You're up next, Shepard."

"Alright. I'll meet you all outside," he said to the group at large. Picking up his weapons, Shepard retraced his steps through the mostly empty frigate until he was back in the Med Bay.

Chakwas was waiting for him next to her new toy. "Captain. If you'll sit right here." After doing what she instructed, Chakwas brought the device close to his face. "Now just sit still. This will take a few minutes. You might feel an itching sensation, but try to ignore it." After making a few more adjustments, a humming noise was heard. "Here we go, Shepard. Just remain still."

"Got it, Doc."

After finishing logging everyone's armaments in his terminal, Jacob sighed when he was left behind. Cracking open his messages; he did a quick check before he had to go outside to continue overseeing the armor installation. His eyes wandered over the operational reports and casual messages, but one name instantly grabbed his attention.

The Hugo Gernsback…! What the hell…?

Instantly alert, he opened the message to see that the Hugo Gernsback's distress beacon frequency was transmitting and the last known location of the ship itself before it disappeared.

This is my Cerberus channel. How the hell did this get here?

Jacob stood up and looked around the empty armory, but saw no one around. "EDI, could you check this message?"

"Analyzing. What would you like to know?" EDI asked.

"Authenticity. This had to go through regular Cerberus security channels. I want to know who."

"The message is authentic. However, the sender has redacted his or her name. I am unable to tell you who sent the message," EDI reported.

Redacted. Only high-level personnel with the proper security clearances can do that…

Jacob knew he wasn't one such person. The only people who can keep secrets within Cerberus are people the Illusive Man allowed to keep secrets, thus, the special security clearance. The list was a short one, but Jacob only knew that Miranda had such clearance. He didn't know the others.

Miranda wouldn't care enough to dredge something this old up though… Maybe the Illusive Man did this?

"Operative Taylor, Captain Shepard had just left the Normandy and is en route to his mission," EDI informed. "You have the ship."

Shaking the thoughts away as best he could, though still a bit shaken by the sudden news, Jacob took deep breath. Exhaling forcefully, he put the news on the backburner and focused on his job.

I'll talk to Shepard about his later.

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Cargo Transfer Levels

"You two look much better now," Tali commented. "I'm glad to see that Dr. Chakwas is as skilled as ever."

"I'm just glad to be rid of that itchy bandage," Garrus joked.

"There she is." Miranda pointed at their contact.

Seryna walked up to the group. "This is everyone?"

"This is everyone," Shepard confirmed.

"Come on," she brusquely said. "Shift change is happening soon." She led them to two parked cars nearby. "Get your team and follow me."

"Miranda, you take the other car. Everyone else, divide evenly into the cars," Shepard directed. "Go."

Miranda raised an eyebrow at his orders, but complied.

Probably remembering the last time she drove.

Following Seryna into her car, Shepard sat up front and waited until everyone was settled. Jack and Grunt ended up in the same car as him while Garrus, Tali, and Mordin settled themselves in the other.

"Alright, let's go," Seryna said.

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, Dantius Towers

Slipping inside among the new shift of workers was child's play. The sparse mercenaries within didn't detect his entry at all. Flitting through the shadows, Thane moved purposely through the hallways of the incomplete tower. Hearing voice modules around the corner, he held his ground in the darkness and waited.

Two mercs were chatting casually, oblivious to his presence. Watching them carefully, Thane waited until they were close enough before striking swiftly. Leaping from the shadows, he struck the first guard in the throat, cutting off his ability scream for help. He lashed out his leg, tripping the second guard and bringing him down.

Mounting him quickly, the guard could only utter a single word, "Wha…?" before Thane gripped his head and twisted sharply. The other guard continued to choke, and tried to recover from the unexpected blow, but Thane was already moving as if he were the wind. Slipping behind the merc, reached out and snapped his neck effortlessly as well.

With brief conflict over, Thane dragged both bodies into an empty room, before moving quietly through the building. His eidetic memory of the floor plans allowed him to go as though he traveled these halls before. After a few silent minutes, he finally found the entrance to the ducts that would take him to the higher floors without needing to use the elevators. Only one Eclipse was standing guard nearby, facing away from him and not wearing his helmet. Judging the distance, Thane made a snap decision and sprinted from the entrance of the hallway and into the open room.

His near silent footfalls still alerted the guard. He turned around, bringing his M-8 to bear, but he was too late. Thane kicked out and struck the weapon before the guard could fully turn around and level it correctly. The rifle clattered on floor, but sounds were superseded by sounds of Thane's fists striking the merc in a rapid three-punch combo aimed at his face and chest. The Eclipse merc grunted, before making a strangled sound of pain when his nose broke and doubled over from the surprise attack to his abdomen, presenting his vulnerable backside to him. Thane wrapped his arm around the merc in a headlock and twisted sharply. Gently letting the limp body fall, Thane picked up the discarded weapons and took it and the corpse to a nearby room.

Making his way back to the large vent, Thane nimbly ran up the wall and gripped the edge before he could lose his momentum on the vertical surface. As quietly as he could, he slipped inside and started navigating through the cramped air ducts.

An Eclipse merc walked into the room, carrying two cups of coffee. "I hate graveyard shifts," he complained to himself. "Hey! Got your coffee!" He looked around in confusion, unable to spot his partner anywhere. "Not funny man. You want me to drink this or what?"

The merc looked around, trying to deduce where his partner went when he saw a few drops of blood on the ground. Dropping the cups, he gripped his M-8 and scanned the area. "Oh shit," he frantically said. He turned on his radio. "Command, I think we might have an intruder in Tower Two. I lost my partner and there are signs of a struggle here. Please advise."

"Understood. Hold your ground. We'll verify the threat. Lock down the workers in the meantime. If they resist, Nassana gave us permission to eliminate them."

"Roger that."

Dossier: The Assassin

Thane Krios

-Quick-kill biotic specialist

-Expert sniper

Thane Krios is a drell, trained from childhood as an elite assassin. Proficient in both long-range sniping kills and close infiltration. He has slowed his activities in recent years but is rumored to have a target on Illium.

Location: Crescent Nebula, Tasale System, Illium, Nos Astra, En Route to the Dantius Towers

"The towers are heavily guarded and you'll find more resistance closer to the penthouse," Seryna warned.

"You mean closer to Nassana," Shepard translated.

She made a noise of agreement. Glancing at him through the corner of her eye, she asked, "Thane. You planning to stop him?"

"I'm just here to make sure he survives," Shepard answered honestly.

"Hmm…" Seryna accelerated the car and danced in-between the other vehicles in the way.

Shepard glanced at the readouts and saw that Miranda had little trouble keeping up with Seryna's reckless driving.

"There they are: the Dantius Towers," she pointed out. "You think you can get to Thane?"

"Or Nassana. Whoever comes first," Shepard said.

"Her mercs will fight you every step," she warned.

"Good," Grunt said in anticipation.

"We're not worried. Besides, we might find him before it goes that far," Shepard said.

"I'm with the big guy on this, Boss Man," Jack said. She leaned forward in her seat until her head was between Shepard and Seryna. "I've been itching for a good fight for a while now."

"At least you'll know where he's headed," Seryna commented off-hand.

"Any last tips about the towers?" Shepard asked as they closed in.

"The Eclipse mercs will be well-fortified by now and they won't want to disappoint Nassana," she replied.

Jack scoffed and leaned back in her seat. "Fuck'em. They're no problem."

"There's no automated defenses or traps. It's a business building, not a military base. Just focus on anything moving," she advised.

"I can do that," Grunt said.

"No civilian casualties," Shepard reminded.

"Yeah, yeah," Grunt grumbled.

"Hold on," Seryna said. She banked the car hard to port and left the traffic lane behind. Miranda followed effortlessly and soon, both cars landed in front of Tower Two.

Shepard noted that there were no guards outside waiting to greet them.

So far, so good.

The doors opened and his team stepped out and warily scanned their surroundings.

"Don't linger too long; they'll be here to greet you soon enough," Seryna cautioned.

"Joy," Shepard deadpanned. Before he could leave, Seryna leaned her head out.

"By the way, I never caught your name."

"Shepard."

"Good luck, Shepard. Say hi to Thane for me when you see him." With those parting words, she pressed a button to close the doors and drove off quickly.

"Uh… Shepard?" Tali called out.

"What's up?"

"Aw, damn it! The workers are under attack!" Garrus shouted.

Shepard turned his head to see a pair of LOKI's and a pair of Fenris mechs running down a trio of salarians just through the glass entrance. "Open fire!" he ordered.

Jack wasted no time and used Shockwave to blow the glass entrance apart and destroy the LOKI's legs from underneath them. The Fenris' stumbled from their charge, but got back up and started targeting the newest threats.

Tali engaged her omni-tool and aimed at one of the Fenris mechs. It suddenly changed direction and tackled the other Fenris. Soon, both mechs were battling each other only to be destroyed by a sudden torrent of gunfire from the squad.

"Did we get caught already?" Miranda asked once the thread was eliminated.

"I don't think so," Shepard said. "They were shooting the salarians first."

"Then Thane was detected," Garrus deduced. "They must be sweeping the building clean to find him."

"Well, since Jack knocked on the front door," Shepard said. "Let's get moving."

They entered the building quickly, weapons ready. Mordin suddenly stepped forward and knelt down.

"See something?" Tali asked.

"Yes. Blood trail," Mordin answered. He stood up and quickly followed the trail to see one of the workers survive. "Shepard! Here! Still alive, but unstable!"

"Help him out," Shepard ordered as he approached. "Garrus, open that door and secure the area."

"Help…" the worker wheezed out.

"Stay still," Mordin ordered as he ran his omni-tool over the worker. "Any pain?"

"I can't feel my legs… my chest is killing me…" he gasped out.

Mordin nodded, as if he expected that answer.

"Why did the mechs attack you?" Shepard asked while Mordin started scanning for any other injuries.

"We're just night workers! Nassana… sent them after us…"

"Why?" Tali asked.

"She sent the mechs to round us up, but we didn't hear… They just started shooting…"

"Area secured, Shepard," Garrus reported.

"They just attacked you?" Tali asked, horrified.

"Yes…" the salarian answered painfully. "We were too slow. It was horrible. Everyone… screaming…"

"Hmm… multiple gunshot wounds… not too serious…" Mordin mumbled.

"The mercs said there was no time. Nassana wanted us out of the way… immediately. Then… the dogs…" he tried to explain before coughing fitfully. Blood seeped out from his lips.

"Applying medi-gel. One moment," Mordin said confidently.

"I can't breathe… please… help me…"

"Almost finished," Mordin said, rooting out the worse injuries and applying first aid. "Done."

The worker started breathing a bit better. "Thank you. That helps… a lot."

"Just remain here," Mordin instructed. "Help coming."

"We need to go," Shepard said to him. "If Nassana's gunning down the workers, we have to save them and stop her."

"Find the others. Help them," the worker pleaded. "But be careful. There were dozens of mercs wandering around all day. You'll find more the further up you go."

"Thanks for the tip. Just rest here," Shepard said. He turned to his team. "Let's get moving."

Thane cursed as he found several workers huddled in the corner. He had no idea why the mercs were suddenly killing innocent people, but he swore to himself that he wouldn't let them die if he could help it.

"Get up!" he ordered.

The salarians looked petrified at his presence. "Please don't hurt us!"

Thane bit back another curse when he heard more reinforcements heading toward him. "Inside that room! Hurry! Before they come!" The salarian workers saw the room he was pointing at and made a beeline inside. They moment the last one entered, he closed and locked the door.

"I heard something over here!" a merc shouted.

Thane drew both of his pistols and took aim at the direction the mercs were coming from. He knew they needed to be eliminated or more of the workers would die.

Merciful Arashu, turn your gaze on these innocents and grant them your protection.

"Here we go!" Miranda yelled out.

The merc screamed as he flailed in the air before dropping violently on his head. The sounds of snapping vertebrae indicated that he was dead.

"Contact left!" Garrus warned. He and Grunt took aim at the security mechs charging directly at them.

"I got them!" Tali shouted. A flash of her omni-tool and the mechs turned around and started firing on the mercs.

"Problematic!" Mordin shouted. "Need assistance!"

Shepard turned to see the professor was suspended in the air by an Eclipse Vanguard. He was shooting at Mordin with his shotgun, threatening to break through his shields. "Shit! Jack! Take him down!"

Jack thrust her arm out and launched Warp at the merc. He stopped firing and erected Barrier at the last second, blocking the biotic attack. He turned his shotgun at Jack and tried to shoot her when he jerked back from the bullets shot from Shepard's HMWA and dropped dead.

Mordin fell the short distance and rolled with the impact. "Many thanks!"

"More contacts!" Miranda warned.

Tali crouched behind a large chunk of masonry and fiddled with her omni-tool. Moments later, a Combat Drone appeared right in the middle of the Eclipse ranks. "Go Chiktikka!"

"Press forward!" Shepard ordered. He led the charge while the mercs tried to keep the drone from draining their shields and to avoid the constant fire from their attackers.

Grunt let out a roar and charged the nearest merc. She let out a scream of fear and tried using Incinerate to slow him down, but her shot was wide. Grunt closed the distance and picked her up. He slapped a grenade on her back and used her as a projectile against the rest of the mercs. "On your ass!"

Several mercs when down at the unexpected weapon. One merc struggled to his feet and gaped at the grenade on her back. "Scatter!" the Eclipse Trooper shouted.

As the assembled Eclipse ran, the asari screamed again and tried to get the grenade off. "What? ! No! Help me!"

Her fellow mercs ignored her as they tried to find cover from the drone, bullets, and asari grenade.

After the inevitable explosion, Grunt laughed exuberantly. "Hahaha! Now this is what I've been waiting for!"

"Somebody get the damn drone off of us!" a Trooper yelled out.

"Overloading it!" an Eclipse Engineer shouted. He aimed his omni-tool at the quick moving Combat Drone and fired. The moment his tech attack struck, the drone exploded, pushing him out of cover and into Garrus' line of sight.

"I love this gun!" Garrus crowed when a burst from his Revenant took out the Engineer.

The Trooper popped out of cover and tried to shoot Garrus when Mordin unleashed Incinerate on him. The Trooper screamed and flailed around, trying to put out the blaze, only to silenced with a quick burst of fire from Miranda.

Shepard grunted when the last Vanguard tagged him with Warp, but his shields managed to hold up. Stepping back, he used Charge to get behind him and used the butt of his rifle on the back of the merc's head. "Sitrep!" he ordered when he confirmed the merc was out like a light.

"Clear!" Miranda shouted.

"We got these bastards!" Jack said in agreement.

"Regroup!" Shepard call out once the situation was contained.

Grunt sauntered up to him. "This is fun!"

Behind his helmet, Shepard sighed. He could imagine the manic grin Grunt was wearing underneath his own helmet. "Come on. We got an assassin to chase."

"Think this'll change Krios' plans?" Garrus asked.

"Undoubtedly," Miranda stated. "But he's never been known to fail either."

"Part of the risk during a job," Shepard said. "He'll have planned for this. Adapted and moved on. Let's hurry."

Thane bit back a grunt as he moved vertically through the ducts. He could hear a pair of Eclipse mercs talking nearby.

"Hey! I think he went in here!" a Trooper shouted.

Thane took a calming breath and held himself still. The explosions he heard earlier had died down, but no doubt the entirety of the Eclipse would be on alert now.

"Well? Go get him!" an asari Vanguard ordered.

Thane climbed to the top of the tube and drew one of his throwing knives. Mentally judging their positions, he listened harder to more accurately identify their locations.

The Trooper scoffed. "You go."

"Get your ass in there. Nassana's not paying you to stand around," the Vanguard snapped.

Thane perched himself at the top, hanging by his left hand. With his right, he held the throwing knife and took careful aim.

"Fine… but I…"

Thane hauled himself over the edge and tossed the knife at the asari. His aim true, the knife struck her throat. The Trooper turned around and in shock and tried to shoot him. Thane punched out and rammed his fist as hard as he could into his throat, crushing his windpipe. Taking advantage of the situation, he grabbed the dying merc and threw him into the vent he jumped out of.

Ignoring the bouncing sounds of the body going down the vent, his eyes darted around the room, but found no other threats. Moving as swiftly as he dared, he continued his hunt through the shadows.

"Hey. Does anyone else hear that?" Jack suddenly asked.

"I hear it," Shepard said. "It sounds like… it sounds like is coming from the vents."

"More than that. It sounds like it's coming from above us," Miranda added.

Everyone looked up to see a solitary air vent nearby.

Grunt's curiosity got the better of him and he wandered directly underneath the vent to see what was causing the ruckus.

"Not a good idea," Mordin warned.

Ignoring him, Grunt looked up. He roared in surprise and flailed around when something landed on him.

The squad stood stock still as they watched the krogan dance around with whatever was on his back.

Grunt finally reached around his hump and head and grabbed the dangling leg. Forcefully pulling the corpse off his back, he threw it bodily on the ground.

Jack burst out laughing. "You fucking idiot."

Grunt growled dangerously at her and looked like he was about to do something drastic when Garrus' frantic voice floated back via radio. "Settle it later! More mercs coming!"

"I heard them! They're over here!"

"Damn it, too late! Garrus, Overload!" Shepard ordered.

A trio of mercs rounded the corner and spotted them. Before they could shoot though, Garrus' Overload fried their shields and weapons.

"Shit! Down!" one of them yelled out. They immediately ducked underneath some drywall. One of them popped up and tossed a grenade.

"Grenade!" Miranda shouted.

Shepard reached out with his biotics and caught the grenade in midair. Inwardly smirking at the memories of his lessons with Jacob, Shepard biotically tossed the grenade right back into the mercs.

"Oh shi…!"

Jack laughed again after the explosion. "Nice one!"

"More coming!" Mordin yelled. Another squad of mercs was running down the hallway at them, supported by several LOKI's. Mordin used his Cryo Blast to slow their progress down, before ducking behind a column.

"Miranda, take Mordin and Tali and go through that door! Try and flank them!" Shepard commanded. "The rest of us will hit them from the front!"

"On it!" Miranda acknowledged.

As Miranda and her team rushed through the doors to come around them, Jack used her biotics to pick up one of the crates lying around and tossed it right at the mercs.

Two of the mercs were crushed beneath the crate. A Vanguard popped out from his cover and tried to use Warp, but a crack of a sniper rifle ended his attempt.

"Scoped and dropped!" Garrus shouted.

The LOKI mechs shambled on, oblivious to the dying mercs. They continued firing on Shepard's team, fearlessly moving forward.

Shepard growled in annoyance and used Shockwave to scatter them. He cursed when more Eclipse rounded the corner and started attacking. "More incoming!"

"We got them!" Miranda called.

A Combat Drone and two Fenris Mechs started attacking the new arrivals, halting their attack momentarily.

"Nice one, Tali," Garrus praised.

"Move up!" Shepard ordered.

Miranda led the charge, leading her team from cover to cover as the mercs started falling back.

While Miranda's team distracted the reinforcement, Shepard and Jack crossed the distance easily by using Biotic Charge to rush the mercenaries. The combined explosion of dark energy from their attack took away any chance they had at counter attacking. Within moments, Shepard's squad stood victorious.

"Everyone okay?" Shepard asked when it was apparent that the area was secured. Various answers in the affirmative floated back to him. Nodding in satisfaction, he looked around the room they were in. "The cargo elevator should be around here somewhere…"

"Shepard! There's a locked door here!" Tali called out.

"Get to work on that, Tali. Everyone else, flanking positions," Shepard ordered.

"Combat radar says there are people inside," Miranda informed. "But it's a small room. There are only three."

"Almost got it," Tali said as she continued the bypass. A few seconds later and the indicator changed from red to green. "Done."

"Open it," Shepard ordered.

The moment the doors opened, the Garrus and Grunt popped out from the sides and trained their weapons at the individuals inside. "Don't move!" Garrus shouted.

"Please! Don't kill us! We'll go! We'll go!" a salarian voice cried out fearfully.

"Hold fire!" Miranda shouted. "Civilians!"

Shepard lowered his rifle and stepped in front of his squad. "Relax. We're not here to hurt you."

One of the workers pointed at them. "Hey, look… they're not Eclipse," he said in relief. "You're here to help us… right?"

Shepard nodded. "It's one reason I'm here. Come on out. It's safe enough."

Another worker stepped up and bowed his head in gratitude. "Thank you. We are in your debt."

"How did you get locked in this room? Was it the Eclipse?" Shepard asked.

"Well, whoever sealed us in here…" one of the workers started to said before turning to his companions for support.

"He definitely wasn't Eclipse. When he found us, I thought we were dead. But he just forced us in here and locked us in," the second worker piped up.

"Locked you in? Sounds like our assassin was trying to keep them safe," Garrus guessed.

"An assassin who rescues people. Great," Jack commented sardonically. She walked off, bored with salarians already.

"Maybe," Miranda said doubtfully to Garrus while ignoring Jack's comments. "But it doesn't sound much like an assassin, does it?"

"Indeed. Very odd. Assassin helping potential witnesses. Such behavior was not recorded in dossier," Mordin remarked.

Grunt scoffed. "If it's him, he lacks commitment. I'd just ignore them and keep going."

"He was an assassin?" the first worker asked in surprise.

"Here for Nassana, I bet. She's got it coming," the second said vindictively.

"Looks like Seryna wasn't the only one with less than warm feelings for Nassana," Miranda quipped.

"Of course!" the second worker said in agreement. "You treat people like this; it always comes back to bite you in the ass."

"How many more workers were in the tower? Are there many more of you?" Shepard asked with concern.

"Not alive. We were lucky."

"Some got out before the dogs were sent in. Maybe a few are in hiding somewhere."

"Alright. The three of you should go. It should be safe down on the lower floors," Shepard stated.

"Yeah. I was thinking the same thing. Let's go, everybody." As they filed out, one of the workers turned to Shepard. "Thank you. And tell you assassin to aim for her head… cause' she doesn't have a heart!"

"Come on! We gotta get out of here!"

"Looks like Nassana hasn't really changed all that much," Tali commented as the salarians left.

"Except she's killing innocent civilians now," Shepard said in disgust. "By the dozens."

"Hey, Boss Man. I think I found that elevator we're looking for!" Jack said.

"We're coming," Shepard replied.

The squad all regrouped at the lift Jack was standing next to. "If this is the only elevator up, I doubt it'll be empty," Garrus warned.

"I was just thinking the same thing myself, Garrus," Shepard said. "Get behind cover. Between all of us, whoever's coming down will be in for a nasty surprise."

"This should be good," Jack cackled.

After everyone ducked down behind whatever defilade they could find, Shepard hit the button, before quickly hiding behind a support column and waited. As predicted, more mercs showed up when the doors opened. A krogan and two asari were waiting inside the lift. One of the asari threw a grenade, but the toss was too shallow. She was obviously thinking they would be just outside the doors.

"Fire!" Shepard shouted.

The grenade exploded harmlessly while Shepard's squad mercilessly tore the three mercs apart.

"Hold fire!" Shepard ordered a few seconds later. Standing out of cover, he looked to confirm the kills before gesturing to his team to enter the elevator. The moment everyone was inside, he slammed on the button and watched as the indicator climbed upward.

"Get inside! Do it!" a merc yelled out.

Thane watched as the Eclipse Trooper herded a trio of salarian workers into a side room. Pulling out his pistol, he took careful aim. Nearby, he could hear his target screaming for updates on the communications console.

"Please… Don't shoot. We'll do anything!"

"Then shut up! Get inside and don't do anything stupid!"

Thane took a breath and exhaled before squeezing the trigger. The merc dropped dead, while the salarians ducked down at the sound of his gunshot. Darting forward, he quickly closed the door and locked it. Realizing that his quest for absolution was costing innocent lives, Thane pushed himself harder, faster. He knew that the bridge would be filled with mercenaries. He opted to go under the bridge and crawl along the underside. Ducking back into the shadows, he quickly crept along the walls, avoiding conflict with the mercenaries as he was able.

Judging by their chatter, the other attackers must still coming.

He didn't know why they wanted to talk to him so badly, but his priority was the target. Nothing else mattered.

Especially his life.

The moment the elevator doors opened, everyone raised their weapons and was ready to sprint out of the tiny metal box they were trapped in. Shepard and Jack had been prepared to use Throw to buy time for everyone to run out in preparation for conflict. They instantly realized that only one merc was there to greet them and he had his back turned. He was facing a large window while he chattered away on his radio.

"Stupid bastard isn't even holding his gun," Jack observed.

Shepard slowly stalked toward him, holding his rifle loosely in his arms. He knew his squad had their weapons out and trained on the lone merc.

"Don't worry about it," the merc said to the person on the other line. "We don't need any reinforcements. I'll talk care it." There was a brief pause. "It's under control. I'll go down there myself."

"Turn around. Very slowly," Shepard ordered in a low dangerous voice.

"Damn it," the merc said when he saw he was completely surrounded.

"Tell me where the assassin is and I might let you live," Shepard threatened as he took a step closer.

The merc took a step back in response. "If I knew that, I wouldn't be wasting my time talking to you," he defiantly said. "You're not one of us. Who are you?"

"You've got two ways down," Shepard coolly said, ignoring the question. He pointed at the window. "Express." He jerked his thumb at the elevator. "Or coach." He took a step closer forcing the merc to step back again until his back was pressed against the glass wall. "Your choice."

"Look pal, even if I knew where he was, I wouldn't tell you," he snapped back.

"Wrong answer," Shepard growled as his biotic aura manifested menacingly.

The merc crossed his arms rebelliously. "I've got nothing more to say to you…"

"How 'bout 'goodbye'?" Shepard coldly said.

"Goodbye? Hey! Wha…!"

Shepard's leg snapped out, pulsing with dark energy, and planted a full biotic kick against the merc's chest. The merc screamed as he was blown out the window and fell down almost the entire length of the skyscraper.

"Damn. I could take notes from you, Shepard," Jack praised.

"Harsh. But I guess he had it coming," Garrus stated.

"Hmm… Interesting," Mordin's voice called back from the elevator entrance.

"Find something?" Miranda asked him.

Mordin picked up an apparently discarded OSD and scanned the contents with his omni-tool. "Oh! Genetic information of the Kirosa's. Know this family. Information very important. Should probably hold on to this. Return it at later date." With that he stuffed the OSD in a pouch and nodded. "Ready."

"That merc said he had a team," Tali reminded. "They must be close by."

Shepard shushed them. "I hear something…" He stepped closer one of the two doors leading to the next room and listened closely.

"He's all over the place," a male voice reported.

"What do you mean?" Nassana's voice echoed via intercom.

The squad split up between the two doors and waited for Shepard to give the word.

"We've got reports of him on multiple levels. We think he's traveling through the ducts…"

Shepard heard Jack laugh and Grunt growl over the radio. "Quiet!" he said to both of them.

"I'm not paying you think. Just find him. Now!" Nassana ordered.

Another male voice was heard, very close to the door Shepard was listening too. "Come on. She'll be throwing us to the dogs next."

"Clear the room!" Shepard ordered.

Both doors burst open and the squad ran in, guns blazing. The two Eclipse Troopers standing nearby was cut down instantly.

"We got mechs!" Garrus shouted. He unleashed Overload on one of the Fenris mechs. The other two LOKI's and last Fenris activated immediately and responded to the threat.

"What the…? ! We're under attack!" a Vanguard shouted. The moment she yelled, four more mercs ran into the room and entered the fray.

Shepard pushed forward. He managed a clean headshot on one of the LOKI's when electrical sparks washed over his vision. Looking at his HUD, he realized he had been tagged with Overload. "Lost shields!"

"Up you go!" the asari Vanguard taunted.

Shepard shouted in surprise when his feet left the floor. He flailed around helplessly in midair and saw the asari take aim at him.

This could hurt a bit…

Her shotgun bucked with recoil, but to both of their surprise, another kinetic barrier manifested around Shepard, deflecting the bullets.

Shepard's eyes roamed the HUD and saw three words flashing at the top: Emergency Shields Activated.

Breathing a quick sigh of relief and mentally thanking Miranda, he glowed with dark energy and used Biotic Charge to break free of the influence of Pull and rushed the asari.

Thanks to the new high angle, instead of utilizing horizontal force, Shepard utilized vertical force as well. The merc screamed when she was plowed into the ground by attack.

Shepard grunted and generated the necessary mass effect fields to protect him from slamming into the floor. When he hit the asari, he rolled of her and rolled a few more times, bleeding the momentum away before jumping to his feet, no worse for wear. The asari struggled to her feet, but a few bursts from Shepard's rifle tore through the remains of her Barrier and armor.

"I think we got them all," Grunt said in disappointment.

"Room's clear, Captain," Miranda echoed in agreement.

Looking around, he saw his team was still standing and appeared unharmed. As they reported, all the Eclipse were down.

"Shepard, there's another locked door here. Combat radar says there are three people inside. It might be more workers," Tali reported.

"Open it," Shepard said. The rest of the squad regrouped nearby.

Tali knelt down and started fussing with the controls. "Almost… got it!" The moment the door opened, a salarian in red was standing right in front of her. She squeaked in surprise when he raised a pistol and pointed it squarely at her faceplate.

"Get back! Get back… I'll shoot!" he threatened fearfully.

Shepard and the rest of the squad raised their weapons immediately at the salarian.

"Drop the gun, lizard," Grunt growled out.

"This can end quick or painful. Your choice," Jack threatened.

"Take it easy," Shepard ordered to them.

Tali held her hands up and slowly got to her feet. To her credit, she remained calm despite the danger. "Put the weapon down. We won't hurt you," she soothingly said, attempting to calm the frightened salarian.

"I… I don't believe you," he stammered out. The gun was shaking in his hand.

"Just relax. Don't do something you'll regret," Garrus said. He shifted slowly to the side to keep the armed salarian in his sight while minimizing the risk of hitting Tali.

"We're here to help you," Miranda added.

"I don't want to hurt you… but I will!" the salarian cried out.

"Telon! Stop it!" another salarian called out.

"Get back! I'll shoot!"

"Okay…" Shepard said softly. "Look. We're lowering our weapons. See?" He pointed the muzzle of his rifle toward the ground. "Just calm down. We're not the bad guys here…"

Telon shifted his gun from Tali to Shepard. "Okay. Now step back. Don't come any…"

"Is your safety on?" Tali suddenly asked. The salarian was caught off-balance with the sudden question and turned the gun in his hand to look. Tali lashed out and grabbed the gun with her left hand while hitting Telon with an open palm strike with the right. Her blow connected with the underside of his jaw, knocking him flat on his back. Tali's body language suggested she was shocked with her actions, but recovered quickly enough to grip the pistol correctly and aim it at her stunned captor. "Don't move!"

"Wow," Garrus said in surprise.

"My thoughts exactly. Go Tali," Shepard complimented before turning his gaze on the other workers inside.

"I'm as surprised you are," Tali admitted, but sounded proud she was able to defend herself regardless.

"Telon!" one of salarians cried out. He rushed to his side.

"Slow and easy," Miranda commanded.

"He's my brother. I just want to see if he's all right," the salarian pleaded.

"Alright," Shepard said. "Stand down," he ordered to his squad.

Telon groaned in pain, but was relatively unharmed. Satisfied that his brother was okay, the worker looked up at the assembled team. "Are you the ones who… shot the merc?"

Shepard turned his head looked at the corpse in the corner. "We shot a lot of mercs today, but we can't take credit for him."

"Then… who did?"

Miranda stepped closer to the body. "Right in the eye. Very precise shooting." She turned to the worker. "And you didn't see the shooter?"

He shook his head.

Jack curiously stepped up to the body as well and kicked the corpse's boot. She whistled appreciatively. "Damn. That is a clean shot. Very nice."

"What happened exactly?" Shepard asked.

"The merc found us and shouted at us to move. We panicked and he shouted more," he explained. "I thought he was going to kill us… then… his head just exploded." He nodded at the pistol in Tali's hand. "Telon picked up the merc's gun, but we were too afraid to move. Then you showed up."

"A perfect headshot with no collateral damage," Garrus summed up. "Very impressive." His tone suggested that his respect for Thane went up a few notches.

"We cleared the mercs out on the way here. You should be able to get to the lower levels safely," Shepard advised.

The salarian sighed in relief. "No need to convince me." He reached down and pulled his bother to his feet. "Telon… come on, get up," he said softly.

Telon wobbly stood up. "Can we go home now?" he begged.

"Yeah. We're getting out of here," his brother assured.

"Um… Sorry. You know, for hitting you," Tali apologized, her tone contrite.

Telon offered a shaky smile. "Um, yeah. Don't worry about it. Happens all the time."

After the trio of workers left, Shepard tilted his head at Tali. "Nice moves. Where'd you learn them?"

Tali shrugged, but Shepard could see that she was bit embarrassed. "I actually learned a few defensive moves from Chief Williams. Reegar taught me a bit more when I started going out on missions."

"Where is everyone? !" Nassana's voice screamed through the intercom.

Turning his head, Shepard spotted a communications terminal. As he walked up to it, Nassana continued ranting.

"Will somebody please give me a report!"

"Nassana?" Shepard said into the terminal.

"It's about time! What's going on down there? !"

"I'm afraid your mercs aren't able to respond, Nassana," Shepard taunted.

"Damn it!" she cursed before shutting the link down.

"Let's go. The bridge is right above us," Miranda said. "We're almost there."

Cautiously, the group moved up the ramps and rounded several corners. Eventually, they reached the outside. As EDI predicted, the winds were powerful near the top. To keep their footing, they had to engage their mass effect fields on their boots to keep from staggering. It was usually used on planets with low gravity or combat in zero-g to make movement seem more natural. Unfortunately, on Illium, it meant their mobility was hampered. Much like dragging extra weights attached to their feet. The wind howled and threatened to push them off the building regardless of their protection. They had to switch to personal radios just to keep talking over the gale.

"This is fucking annoying," Jack groused next to Tali as they pushed themselves to keep up with everybody. The only one slower than either of them was Mordin.

"Better than falling to your death," Garrus chided. He, Shepard, and Grunt seemed comfortable with the seemingly magnetic pull of their boots as they kept a relatively normal pace.

They encountered no threats as the approached the bridge. Far from being relieved, however, their apprehension grew.

"Unless Nassana ran out of mercs…" Garrus started to say.

"Bulk of forces waiting on bridge," Mordin finished. "Probably hoping treacherous hazards will stop us."

"Hold up," Shepard ordered. He crouched at a corner and took a quick look.

"What do you see?" Miranda asked as she walked up and squatted behind him.

"Hold on," the Spectre responded. He collapsed his assault rifle and brought up his sniper rifle. Peering through the scope, he cursed silently. "A bunch of mercs and they're carting explosives. A lot of explosives."

"Damn it. They're looking to blow the bridge to prevent us from reaching Nassana," Miranda stated.

"Garrus. Help me out here. You and me will set off the explosives. Miranda, you take everyone else and clear the path to the bridge. Once there, wait for me. I'll clear the mercs off with the Blackstorm," Shepard said.

Garrus pulled out his sniper rifle as well and got into position.

"Go!"

At Shepard's order, both men fired simultaneously, hitting the cart and detonating its deadly payload. Miranda led the rest of squad against the scattered and disoriented mercs.

A Vanguard stood up, his Barrier protecting him from the bulk of the blast. "They're already here!" he shouted just before Shepard's explosive round blew his head clean off.

"Got'em!"

"Tali! LOKI's!" Miranda pointed out.

"They're mine!" Tali called back.

"Okay, Garrus. Cover me," Shepard ordered. He collapsed his HMWSR and readied his M-490 Blackstorm.

"That'll clear the bridge nicely," Garrus crowed approvingly. He took aim and brought down an Engineer harassing Jack. "I got your back. Go!"

Shepard ran as fast as he was able. He stopped next to Jack who unleashed Shockwave. The biotic explosions were enough to disrupt the merc's footing and allowed the wind push them off the side. "Hell yeah!"

"We're at the bridge, Shepard!" Miranda called back.

"What the hell are you waiting for? !" Nassana screamed. "Just kill them!"

"Moving up!" Shepard ran up to see Miranda, Mordin, Tali and Grunt overlooking the bridge. They were exchanging fire with the mercs that were stationed there. Watching closely, he could see the Eclipse movements were hampered as well, indicating that they were trying to stay on the bridge without falling off. "Cover me!"

While Shepard started charging the Blackstorm, Grunt let loose a concussive round at a group of mercs trying to attack their position. The round blasted them off their feet and sent them tumbling along the width of the bridge. They dropped their weapons and starting grabbing anything they could to combat the wind threatening to blow them off.

Tali unleashed her Combat Drone on the hapless mercs. "Get them, Chiktikka!" The drone relentlessly attacked them, eventually pushing the mercs off the bridge. "Good girl!"

"What the hell am I pay you for? !"

"Firing!" Shepard warned.

The singularity travelled parallel to the bridge, pulling the shocked mercs and mechs right off the bridge and over the abyss. If they didn't fall to their deaths, they were either crushed by the powerful gravitational forces or orbiting the accretion disk of the black hole. Their screams reached across the bridge and to Shepard's ears despite the howling winds.

When the gravity well exploded and sent the various Eclipse mercs flying in all directions, Grunt jumped up and roared victoriously. "Ha! Didn't stand a chance!" He jumped down to the bridge ahead of the squad and rashly ran the length of the bridge.

"Grunt! Stop!" Shepard shouted as the rest of squad regrouped at the ledge above the bridge and watched the krogan's progress. "Damn it. Let's go," Shepard ordered to the rest of the team. Everyone jumped down at followed as best they could, while keeping their guard up for any holdouts.

Garrus stayed on the ledge and watched for any signs of ambushes. He slid the scope of his rifle over his eye and scanned the bridge. "Damn! Grunt! On your left! Merc!"

"Damn it! I'm sending reinforcements! Now finish them off!" Nassana screamed.

An asari Eclipse leapt from her cover and launched Warp at the charging krogan. Grunt roared in pain as his shields failed against the biotic attack. He rushed forward, intent on killing the merc with his bare hands. To his surprise, the nimble asari somersaulted out of his reach. The moment she landed on her feet, she fired her assault rifle, tagging the krogan in the arm.

Grunt roared in pain. "Stand still!" he shouted as he aimed his shotgun one-handed and fired.

The Asari Commando smirked and flipped to side, deftly avoiding the shot. Despite the pull on her boots and the roaring winds, she seemed completely at ease with the environment. She glowed with dark energy and brought her arm into the air.

Grunt found himself flying. The wind caught him and sent him tumbling over the edge. Just as he was falling, his momentum was arrested and he found himself merely swaying with and against the wind. Looking back, he saw Shepard leaning over the edge, glowing with dark energy of his own and his arm extended at his direction.

He grumbled to himself, knowing he'd probably be scolded for his mistake later.

Shepard gritted his teeth as he fought the winds for Grunt. The crack of a sniper rifle and Garrus' report told him he was safe for the moment. Taking a deep breath, he used his biotics to pull Grunt back up to solid ground. Miranda knelt beside him and used her biotics to assist. Jack huffed in annoyance, but knelt down as well. Between the three of them, Grunt was safely deposited on the bridge.

Tali ran up to the group. "We've secured the bridge. There's no more Eclipse."

"Except the ones guarding Nassana," Shepard reminded. He turned to face the krogan. "You okay?"

Grunt nodded silently.

"Good. Because if you do that again, I'll shoot you first," Shepard decisively stated. Letting Grunt grumble to himself, the Spectre stood up and waited for the squad to regroup on his position before crossing the rest of bridge to Tower One.

Crawling as slowly as he could, Thane moved through the tight confines of the duct. Every step had to be measured or the echoes would travel into the room his target was residing in. He shifted forward and winced slightly when the duct made an audible thumping sound as it bore his weight. He paused and listened as hard as he could. Satisfied that his presence was still hidden, he continued forward.

Finally, he heard voices. "Shepard? But… you're dead," Nassana's shock was discernable.

Shepard. It was a name he knew well. He had heard the rogue Spectre, Saren, issued an assassination contract on Shepard's life two years back. He had passed on the contract and like the rest of galaxy, followed the footsteps of the first human Spectre as he conducted his missions, cumulating into the Battle of the Citadel.

"I got better," a male voice responded evenly.

"And now you're here to kill me," she accused.

Thane took advantage of the distraction and moved quicker through the vent, stopping only when the duct shifted under his weight. He couldn't give up the element of surprise now. Not when Nassana believed she was facing her assassin.

Unless he is here to mete out justice.

"Maybe I just missed you," Shepard replied mockingly.

"Screw you, Shepard," Nassana retorted.

"Charming as ever," he sarcastically observed.

The light at the end of the duct was closer now. Thane took another careful step closer.

"I'm sure you find this all very ironic. First you take care of my sister and now you're here for me," she disdainfully said. "Well, you made it this far. Now what?"

Thane paused, curious as to what the Spectre's true purpose was. To seek him out or to dispense justice on the wicked? If it was the latter, was it either on Nassana, himself, or both?

"I'll admit; I didn't come here with the intention to kill you. After what you did to all those workers though, I'm kinda warming up to the idea," Shepard answered.

"You expect me to believe that? You've practically destroyed my towers! Decimated my security force!"

Thane moved forward again. If Shepard wasn't here to eliminate Nassana, then at the very least, he was providing a valuable opportunity. The air duct thumped some more with his increased haste, but Thane hoped that Shepard continued to distract everyone.

"I'm just looking for someone," Shepard glibly said.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Nassana impatiently asked. "Is it credits? Is that what you want? Just tell me your price. We can make this problem go away."

Another thump. Thane pressed forward quickly. If Shepard continued to anger Nassana, she might give the order to open fire. Considering the numbers the Spectre must've fought through to reach the penthouse, Thane doubted Nassana's guard had the skill to kill him. The only outcome would be that Shepard would kill Nassana first before him.

"All the credits in the world won't make this problem go away, Nassana."

"Who the hell gave you the right to play God?" she accused. "I may not be perfect, but look at you."

Thane gripped the edge of the opening and peered in. From his vantage point, he counted only two Eclipse mercs. Judging from the sounds of Nassana's voice, she was slightly to the right.

"We both kill people for money. What's the difference?"

"I really don't care to explain it to someone like you," Shepard replied. "And I doubt I could explain it in a way you'd understand, even if I had the inclination."

Thane perched himself at the opening and prepared to strike.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" she scoffed. "You think you're so superior…"

"You're really not helping your case here," Shepard interrupted.

"So you are going to kill me."

"You got it wrong. I'm not here to find reasons to kill you. You've already given me plenty. Our little chat was to determine if I had enough reasons to let you live."

Using one of his throwing knives, Thane tossed it to the side, down another duct. The noise generated was enough to call attention to the occupants below.

"What?" Nassana impatiently asked.

"I heard something," a feminine voice answered.

At least three guards, then.

"Damn it. Check the other entrances!" she ordered. "You… stay put."

Thane dropped down from the ceiling and landed without a sound. His eyes took in the environment immediately. Three Eclipse mercs and his target. None of them were aware of his presence. Shepard stood on the other side of the room with his team.

"When I'm finished dealing with this nuisance…"

Reaching around the first merc, the assassin quickly gripped his head and snapped his neck violently. Turning to his left, he punched the second merc's throat, crushing the trachea.

"You and I are going to…"

The Asari Commando turned around and tried to raise her shotgun, but Thane had already drawn his pistol and shot her at point blank, right in the forehead, bypassing her kinetic shields.

Nassana grabbed her pistol and turned around. "Who…?"

Thane skillfully spun around and took a step, easily sidestepping Nassana's extended arm that was holding the weapon. Grabbing her arm and clutching it tightly, he rammed his Predator into her chest and pulled the trigger in one smooth motion.

Nassana gasped painfully as she stared into the face of her assassin.

Thane wrapped an arm around her and respectfully laid his latest kill on the table. He watched as Nassana closed her eyes and exhaled one last time before lying still. Reaching out, he grasped her hands and placed them on her chest. A last moment of dignity.

Taking a step back, he clasped his hands and bowed his head.

Shepherd this troubled soul, goddess, and guide me on my path. Smile kindly on this sinful soul, goddess, and enfold me in your sheltering embrace.

Await this vagrant soul, goddess, for soon I shall join you in the deep.

Soon, I shall seek the comfort of your halls.

"And finally, we meet the assassin himself," the quarian said.

"Not bad," a human female commented.

"I thought it was impressive. You certainly know how to make an entrance," the turian stated.

"Nice moves," another female praised.

"I was wondering when you'd show up," Shepard said. Thane could hear him take slow, measured steps toward him. "I was hoping to talk to you."

He didn't open his eyes. "I apologize, but prayers for the wicked must not be forsaken."

"Wicked. Sound almost kind in her case."

"Not for her," Thane corrected. He opened his eyes and looked at the Spectre.

Unlike the rest of his team, his weapons were still attached to his harness. He was holding his helmet loosely in one hand.

"For me." Thane walked casually around the table. "The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern by actions alone. Take you, for instance. All this destruction… chaos."

Shepard remained silent. He simply met Thane's gaze unflinchingly.

The woman in white armor spoke up. "One could say the same of you. An assassin that goes out of his way to protect innocent civilians. As well as being deeply religious, despite killing four people skillfully. Certainly a paradoxical combination."

"I was curious to see how far you'd go to find me," the assassin admitted. He stopped a few feet in front of the assembled group. "Well… here I am."

"You're right. I do want to talk to you," Shepard said. "But how did you know we were here?"

"Gunfire and explosions," Thane answered simply. "I prefer to work quietly. If I have to actively fight through guards, I've made a mistake. I rarely make mistakes."

"Well, you'll have to chalk this one up as a mistake, then," the other young woman in black armor stated. "We didn't even do anything yet when the mechs started killing all the workers."

Thane turned his head to glance at her before facing Shepard. "Truly?"

"We just arrived and saw the mechs killing some salarians. At that point, we didn't bother with stealth and assaulted the building. I assumed you were detected or caught at some point," Shepard answered.

Thane turned around and bowed his head. "It must've been my fault. I thought I had taken care of the sentry's cleanly, but I didn't have the luxury of confirming."

"Regardless, I'm here because I'm recruiting you for a mission," Shepard informed.

"Indeed?"

"You're familiar with the Collectors?"

He looked back up and watched the sunrise. "By reputation."

"They're abducting entire human colonies. Freedom's Progress, Ferris Fields, New Canton, and Horizon, all of that was their handiwork."

"I see," Thane simply said. His mind was whirling with the news though. At least thousands of innocent people must've been taken.

"We're going after them," Shepard stated confidently.

Turning around sharply, Thane made eye contact with him. "Attacking the Collectors would require passing through the Omega-4 Relay. No ship has ever returned from doing so."

"I'm told it's a suicide mission. Impossible odds haven't stopped me before, though."

"A fair point. You've built a career on performing the impossible." Thane held his hands behind his back. "You'd like me to protect humans I've never met, from aliens no one knows anything about, by going to a place no one's ever returned from?" he asked, summing up Shepard's request.

"Pretty much. You're an assassin that kills people you never met, going through places you might not know everything about, and knowing each contract you take could be your last."

Thane considered his words. "True enough. A suicide mission, you say?" He turned away from Shepard and bowed his head. A ghost of smile reached his face as he thought about the opportunity he was given. "Yes. A suicide mission will do nicely." Shepard stepped up next to him. "I'm dying," he revealed, glancing at his probable employer. "Low survival odds don't concern me. The abduction of your colonists does."

Shepard turned his head and glanced at his squad. The female in white armor shook her head and shrugged. "We didn't know that. Is there anything we can do?" he asked.

"Giving me this opportunity is enough," Thane gratefully replied. He turned to watch the rising sun again. "The universe is a dark place. I'm trying to make it brighter before I die." He felt a measure of guilt as his thoughts turned toward the salarian workers. "Many innocents died today. I wasn't fast enough and they suffered. I must atone for that."

I must atone for many things… Perhaps this man might be my chance for salvation.

"I will work for you, Shepard." He extended his hand. When Shepard shook it, another ghost of a smile touched his lips. "No charge."

*ENCYRPTED*

Recruited Thane Krios for the team, but medically questionable unless mission is resolved quickly.

Legal representatives dealing with public damage to Dantius Towers.

Author's Notes:

For Thane's second prayer, credit goes to Ronnie James Dio and his fic Immortality. The man is much better at writing that kind of stuff than me.

That new DLC came just in time. Personally, I love the Kestrel Armor. The helmet was interesting, but it really brought about a feeling of nostalgia. Ace Combat 5/Zero had a jet that had a completely armored cockpit. On the inside though, it looked like you could see everything around you with no problems whatsoever. That's what I remember when I see the Kestrel helmet.

Duel-wielding. It's one of those things that's either really popular or not. The reason I made Thane a duel-wielder is because of the "Dirty Dozen" trailer, where he shoots two Eclipse mercenaries with two pistols. I pretty much changed his loadout to a sniper rifle, two pistols, throwing knives, biotics, and hand to hand combat.

Still need lots of votes for me to commit to Overlord.

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